Being able to instantly send and receive messages brings a whole new dimension to work. But it’s not quite the same as chatting with friends and family. Here we outline the most important dos and don’ts of instant messaging in a business environment.

Less intrusive than a phone call and faster than email, instant messaging (IM) offers ideal support for team collaboration. Plus, it sits perfectly with Gen Y employees’ desire for the immediacy they experience in other areas of their lives to be reflected in the workplace.

With apps like Work Chat, you can communicate with your colleagues instantly at any time. Messaging, live video calls and photo sharing are fantastic ways to bring teams together, make decisions quickly and keep the ideas flowing.

But to make instant messaging for business work for you, there are a few rules to follow.

1 Remember, it’s instant

If you’re used to using email at work, you may have got into the habit of reading your messages over and checking them carefully before sending. You might even have a delay on your email. The immediate nature of messaging can mean you send something before you really know what you want to say, so make sure you double check your messages before firing them off without thinking.

2 Keep it business-like 

Always remember you’re at work, so keep the subject matter professional and the tone polite and respectful. There’s nothing wrong with livening up your business messages with a few emojis – provided that’s appropriate for the people you’re messaging – but don’t overdo it.

3 Don’t get distracted 

People want to communicate faster and more efficiently at work – in fact, they’re frustrated with the speed of email, with over three-quarters of companies believing it to be an ineffective communication tool. But being under pressure to answer immediately is seen by employees as the top drawback of instant messaging for business. To avoid distractions, channels can be created for posts that don’t need immediate attention.

4 Know the company rules 

If you’re adding instant messaging to your business communication toolkit, make sure you have policies in place covering how it should be used and what information can be shared over IM. If you’re an employee, make sure you’re familiar with your organization’s IM rules and stick to them.

5 Keep to the subject 

It can be tempting to start having a good chat when you’re messaging, so make a conscious effort to say on topic. That way, you’ll get your work out of the way faster and have more time to chat.

6 Know when to stop 

The aim of IM is to speed up communication. So, if you find yourself in a long chain of messages, constantly answering questions and trying to clarify what you’re saying, it may be quicker and easier to pick up the phone or talk to someone in person.

7 Use IM for the right messages 

IM is great, but it’s not always the right channel for the task. Instant messages should be brief, so if you’ve got something longer to say, an email might be more appropriate, or you might want to post in a Workplace by Facebook group. When it comes to discussing sensitive issues, a face-to-face meeting is probably the way to go.

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